Bill Clinton’s blast from the past
September 14, 2012
He’s called “The Comeback Kid” for a reason: Bill Clinton has made another comeback.
After a riveting speech at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton has been the talk of the political establishment. President Obama has received a 6 percent bump in the polls since the convention and many people attribute the success of the convention to Clinton’s speech last Wednesday night.
Our generation doesn’t really remember Clinton — after all, he was president when we were in grade school. His relationship with the media and the public was sort of similar to George W. Bush’s in his second term — a punch line for comedians and a hated figure for many Americans. Here’s the difference: Clinton’s job approval rating actually went up, and the economy was booming. Seems very different from our memory of Bush, who was an extremely polarizing figure for his failed policies, not his personal life.
Clinton sought to remind the country of his presidency Wednesday night and connect it to Obama’s presidency. The “MTV president” radiated charisma, in contrast to George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. This same charisma excited the youth vote in 1992 when he promised change, just as Barack Obama did in 2008.
Clinton acted as cheerleader and history professor at the DNC, alternating between slogans and facts and figures with anecdotes and punch lines. There are not too many people who can get a room full of Democrats to applaud George W. Bush, but Clinton did. He managed to use cutting partisan attacks on the Ryan budget and Romney’s platform without appearing overly partisan.
According to analysts, he made the case for Obama better than Obama did. A better speaker than Obama? It seems unbelievable to those of our generation who watched his speeches in 2008. Clinton has introduced himself, his wife and the Clinton political brand to a whole new generation of voters in a big way.
Part of the enthusiasm that Obama captured in 2008 was a new generation who didn’t really know or care what Hillary and Bill did in the 1990s but did know it was time for someone else in the White House. The sex scandals defined Bill for us college kids: that’s what we know him for and even were the source of several of the questions leveled at Chelsea Clinton during her visits to college campuses in 2008. Bill Clinton’s speech set the stage for Hillary to campaign for president again in 2016 and target the youth vote.
Clinton boiled down complex concepts. The debt crisis? Arithmetic -— just add up the numbers in the plans. Healthcare? The cost has gone down under Obamacare. The Economy? Just look at Clinton’s presidency, where the economy took a few years to rebound and came back much stronger. The list went on and on. Every major issue was covered with facts and figures, not with lies like Paul Ryan.
Today’s college students have had three men serve as president for most of their lives: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. We’ve seen first-hand the effects of George W. Bush’s presidency: our friends and family sent off to long wars in the Middle East, our parents struggling to pay the bills and our country losing respect around the world. We’ve seen the effects of Obama’s presidency: a rebounding economy, an end game for those wars and street celebrations when he was elected.
Last Wednesday, Bill Clinton was on display for this generation. He reminded us of how good we and our parents had it in the 1990s and how good it could be again if we re-elect Barack Obama.
Photo: Backstage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, President Barack Obama watches Bill Clinton nominating Obama for re-election as President.
Photo credit: Pete Souza, White House
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared as an opinion column in The Maneater on September 14, 2012.